Smart visas eyed to draw entrepreneurs

Smart visas eyed to draw entrepreneurs

New foreign labour policies for S-curve

The government has set an ambitious goal of Thailand becoming a global startup destination, expecting some 105 billion baht in funding to flow into the startup segment this year.

Smart visas are expected to be a key attraction for foreign investors and talent entering the country, with a projection of at least 1,000 smart visas to be approved this year.

The majority of startup funding and activities supported by the government is being sourced by a budget of 130 million baht allocated to the National Innovation Agency (NIA).

Krithpaka Boonfueng, NIA deputy director for innovation system, said the government aims to make Thailand a global startup destination this year, attracting foreign startups and global investors with easy access to funding and tax incentives.

To remove the hurdle of scarce talent and foreign investment concerns, the government introduced the smart visa policy designed to attract highly skilled manpower and investors and accelerate the development of targeted industries in the country.

The smart visa is being offered to foreign experts, executives, entrepreneurs and investors who wish to enter Thailand to work or invest in the 10 S-curve industries.

There are four types of smart visa:

Smart T (talent) is for highly skilled professionals in the fields of science and technology wishing to work in the targeted industries.

Smart I (investors) is for companies using technologies in manufacturing or delivery services in the targeted industries with a minimum investment of 20 million baht.

Smart E (executive) is for individuals who work in the companies using technology in manufacturing or delivering services and are in the targeted industries with a minimum salary of 200,000 baht.

Smart S (startup) is for foreign startup entrepreneurs who wish to invest in targeted industries in Thailand and will receive a one-year visa initially and two-year renewals if requirements are met.

The NIA is one of five state agencies that are certified to audit qualified applicants for the Board of Investment (BoI).

Ms Krithpaka foresees firms in software and digital, automotive, medical equipment, agricultural food tech and bioeconomy as the top fields to draw investment and smart visa applications.

The NIA has appointed True Incube, a local accelerator under True Corporation, as the first private firm to be a certified body to audit foreign startups for the smart visa.

Chokedee Kaewsang, BoI deputy secretary-general, said there have been 460 applicants since the smart visa policy was introduced in February, with 160 qualifying.

"The smart visa requires one month to be processed," he said. "We hope to attract 1,000 smart visas this year, of which hundreds will hopefully be startups."

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